2019 NBA Team Needs - Atlantic Division
Dan Servodidio and Justin Fensterman take a look at what every NBA team needs this offseason and what they may do in the NBA draft division by division.
With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching (Thursday, June 20), we thought it would be a good idea to identify each team’s needs and, based on what we saw in the playoffs, potential offseason activity and draft position, identified players they may select once on the clock. Justin Fensterman, our resident NBA guru, and Dan Servodidio, who led our college basketball analysis, have combined their efforts to give you everything you’ll need to know on Draft Day.
Let's take a look at the Atlantic Division.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 14th, 20th, 22nd, 51st)
The Celtics have two positions that stand out that need filling with the first absolutely being Power Forward. The Celtics are likely to lose their Enforcer Marcus Morris in free agency and even though they want to do everything they can to keep Al Horford , they should still look to add more toughness to the team. They need help protecting the rim and drafting a big man would take the pressure off to have to pay both Daniel Theis and Aron Baynes (especially if Baynes opts out). A Marcus Morris replacement would be ideal with that 14th overall pick. Jayson Tatum is better suited for Small Forward and they need more depth than just Robert Williams.
Another need that the Celtics will have is Point Guard. Kyrie Irving will explore free agency and that will leave the C’s with a huge decision to make in regards to Terry Rozier and whether or not to give him a huge contract. Marcus Smart can also help bring the ball up, but they need a little more help and regardless if they stick with Rozier or not, they can use another facilitator that can come off the bench. Smart isn’t always Smart (pun intended) with the decisions he makes on the ball. By grabbing one or even two Point Guard’s will help fill the void.
The Celtics can go in a bunch of directions with their 14th, 20th and 22nd overall picks in the first round. As Fensty mentioned, though, Boston should focus on drafting a power forward and a point guard with at least two of these picks.
In the 14-22 range, some power forwards the Celtics could target are Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga), Grant Williams (Tennessee) and PJ Washington (Kentucky). Clarke could be gone by 14, but Boston should pounce on him if he’s available because he’s one of the safest first-rounders of this class and is more NBA-ready than most other prospects. Most of the country saw Clarke’s game on full display in the NCAA Tournament when he was throwing down put-back dunks, blocking shots and scoring efficiently around the basket. Last season for the Zags, he led the entire country in blocked shots and FG percentage and his athleticism and leaping ability were tough to contain by any team.
If Kyrie Irving leaves in free agency and Boston looks for a guard with one of its first-round selections, look for Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech) or Keldon Johnson (Kentucky) to be in the mix. Edwards projects as a classic sixth-man scoring guard in the league with the potential to be an all-time steal in this draft if his skills as a point guard can translate over. The senior nearly came out early a year ago but instead returned to Purdue, where he became one of the best college point guards in the nation. Alexander-Walker and Johnson, meanwhile, are both combo-guards who can play the point if needed but have the versatility to play both guard positions at the next level.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 17th- Reported: Traded to ATL, 27th, 31st)
There’s a trade that will very likely be finalized prior to the draft in which the Nets are sending Allen Crabbe and the 17th overall pick to Atlanta. If the deal gets finalized, the Nets will end up with Taurean Prince and one less pick in this year’s draft. Prince will replace DeMarre Carroll in the lineup. The Nets can use some more help in the interior, as Jarrett Allen is not a good defender. The Nets can use another big man to help clog up the middle.
Even if the Nets decide to keep Rondae Hollis-Jefferson , he’s proven that he can’t stay healthy. If the Nets draft a big man, he will likely get minutes quickly. Rodions Kurucs will split minutes between the two forward spots. They should use both picks on big men. If they can find a balanced power forward who can hit mid-range jumpers and plays aggressively in the paint that would be ideal. The Nets can use their second pick on a back up Center as Allen is still growing.
Following their trade involving the 17th overall pick, the Nets will have a tougher time finding a balanced power forward at #27 and/or #31. Some players that could be available at the end of the first round, though, are Eric Paschall (Villanova), Bruno Fernando (Maryland) and Grant Williams (Tennessee). Fernando (6-foot-10, 240 pounds) is an energetic big who really fine-tuned his offensive and defensive game in his two college seasons playing in the Big Ten. The Angolan native improved his footwork around the rim and developed a mid-range jumper that could be useful in pick-and-roll scenarios at the NBA level. Fernando has been mocked to a wide-range of teams in the first round (and some in the early second), but he could be a steal if still available for the Nets.
Williams and Paschall also both have a wide range of draft grades but could provide more experience at the power forward position than Fernando as rookies. Both have both proven themselves over multiple college seasons and look ready to contribute immediately at the next level. Williams (6’6”) and Paschall (6’7”) are a bit undersized to play pure power forward against NBA bigs, but both have the offensive game to score from the post and from the perimeter - and they have the defensive versatility to defend multiple positions (a la Draymond Green when he came out of Michigan State as an undersized big).
New York Knicks
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 3rd, 55th)
The Knicks plan on being big players in free agency this year with a depleted roster headlined by Dennis Smith Jr. The Knicks will also likely exercise Allonzo Trier ’s option. The Knicks should use their first pick to go best player available which is almost certainly going to be R.J. Barrett and he would be a good fit as the Knicks can use a guard/forward who can help bring up the ball. The Knicks have a huge need at Forward as Kevin Knox will need help on both sides of the ball. They can use a wing player who can serve as a three-and-d player to help defend the perimeter.
Their third pick is pretty much spoken for unless they trade the pick. With Atlanta acquiring another pick in the draft, reports have been out that they are offering up both the 8th and 10th picks to the Knicks for their third overall selection. With free agency plans up in the air because of Kevin Durant ’s latest injury, the Knicks may want to play it safe and keep the pick and take Barrett. They also can use another big man who can compliment Mitchell Robinson by providing offense. They can focus their second pick on a big man.
As Fensty mentioned, it’s almost a foregone conclusion the Knicks take R.J. Barrett with the 3rd overall pick - assuming they don’t trade it away. Barrett has the versatility to play either the 2-guard or small forward position in the NBA, and he can handle the ball from the point if needed as well. We all saw how good Barrett was this past year for Duke, so let’s instead focus more on the big men the Knicks might target with the 55th overall pick.
Some of the offensive-minded bigs who could be available for New York late in the second round are Dedric Lawson (Kansas) and Ignas Brazdeikis (Michigan). Lawson was one of the most productive players in college basketball last season and he certainly garnered more attention playing for the Jayhawks after transferring from Memphis. He was elite offensively with his good post game, improved jump shot and instinctive rebounding on the offensive glass. The only downside is his below-average athleticism and potential to struggle with bigger-bodied centers and forwards in the NBA. Brazdeikis, meanwhile, is very tough to judge after his lone freshman season at Michigan - but there’s no denying the talent that exists. The Lithuanian-born forward is tough and physical on defense and will be able to stretch the floor at the next level with his outside shooting (39-percent from three last year). He went from a relatively unknown in the beginning of last year to one of Michigan’s key players as they made a Tournament run - showing the potential to learn fast in the NBA as a small project.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 24th, 33rd, 34th, 42nd, 54th)
With the hefty bag of picks the Sixers have this draft, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them try to entice other teams by dangling picks to shed salary. The Sixers were very close to reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and it’s hard to believe that they’d want to break up their current roster. Redick wants to stay, but he may have to keep taking one-year deals in order to do so. There are a lot of teams looking to sign Tobias Harris this offseason, but, the Sixers will even try to retain him as well meeting Jimmy Butler ’s contract demands if he opts out.
The Sixers MUST use at least three of their five picks on big men. Ben Simmons is running the point for the most part so he’s not included in their forward depth. They were strapped for depth at Power Forward and Center. To preserve Joel Embiid ’s health, they must draft players around him who can come in a relieve him. If they lose Harris in the offseason, they are simply left with Jonah Bolden as their PF depth. They are desperately in need of big man depth if they are going to want to go deeper in the Playoffs. They can also use one or two of their picks on point guards who can come in and either spell Ben Simmons for rest, or allow for Simmons to shift to another position to fill other voids.
As Fensty pointed out, the Sixers need big man depth to spell Joel Embiid - and they should have plenty of options with their five draft picks. Because Philadelphia may opt to go best-available at #24 overall, let’s instead focus on some of the big men they could take chances on with some of their four second-round selections. Keep an eye on Daniel Gafford (Arkansas), Naz Reid (LSU), Bruno Fernando (Maryland), Tacko Fall (UCF) or Deividas Sirvydis (Lithuania).
Fall is an interesting prospect because of his immense potential as an NBA-level center combined with the real risk of busting out. At 7-foot-6 and 290 pounds, Fall would be a direct (bigger) sub for Embiid when backing up him - much like what the Sixers tried to do last year with Boban Marjanovic. You’ve probably heard of Fall or seen videos of him dominating high schoolers and/or college players, but the real question is how he can handle better and bigger competition in the NBA. At his size he’s an elite shot-blocker and presence in the paint but time-and-again at Central Florida, Fall struggled to stay out of foul trouble and consistently could not use his abnormal size to his advantage on offense. You’d think it would be so easy for someone with his unique measurables, but he oddly looked hesitant in his college seasons as if he didn’t realize his own strength or ability.
Since the Sixers have so many second-round picks, they could dedicate one to a foreign player to stash overseas for a year or two like they did with Dario Saric and Furkan Korkmaz. If they do, watch out for Israel’s Yovel Zoosman with the 54th overall pick. Zoosman is a 20-year-old, 6’7” winger with the ability to knock down three-pointers, guard multiple positions and play intelligently on both ends after gaining pro experience with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel. In a year or two, he could develop into a solid 3-and-D player - much like Saric has.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 59th)
The Raptors will be spectators for most of the night unless they trade for more picks. They have two key players with options and Kawhi Leonard may opt out to explore free agency. With Danny Green being a free agent, the Raptors can look to add another shooting guard to come off the bench. Norman Powell is inconsistent and OG Anunoby is better suited to play Small Forward. The Raptors need a bailout option beyond Fred VanVleet and another shooter will help with that. They have plenty of big men and with Marc Gasol aging a bit, it’s hard to believe that he will opt out. They will continue to have strong depth in their frontcourt. Shooting Guard is the only position that stands out when it comes to light depth.
With the second-to-last pick of the draft, the Raptors won’t have many options to pick from but there are a few shooting guards that might be worth a flier and could still be on the board here. Miye Oni (Yale), Jordan Poole (Michigan) and Yovel Zoosman (Israel) all could go earlier or later than 59, but they could nice fliers as each has the potential to turn into solid role players.
Oni basically single-handedly led Yale to the NCAA Tournament last year as the do-it-all playmaker on both ends of the floor. He’s a strong-bodied wing scorer who has the athleticism to finish strong at the rim and the speed to score in transition. Oni will be a good bench player for an NBA team because he can knock down three’s (37-percent last season), guard multiple positions with a tough demeanor and active hands, and has experience passing his teammates open - which he did often at Yale with a lot worse talent.
For a look at the rest of the NBA Divisions, click here.